Funny things about Twitter

If you don’t know what Twitter is you are probably living in an alternate universe. But, although it’s been pretty big for some time now, it feels like people don’t really know how to use it correctly. It started out very simple: I create a network of friends and people can send short messages through their cellphone or online to say what they were doing now. This way people can quickly organize themselves and know what their friends were doing.

But then it turned into a “stalker” type environment: there is this set of people that I’m interested in and I follow them to know what they are thinking. On the other side, I want to advertise myself to my “stalkers” (or fans if you want to put a positive twist to it) and keep them thinking that I’m a good person.

The problem in my opinion with this new reason for twitter is that it’s not that good at that. It centralizes everything into one platform that allows you to have only 140 characters to send out your message. So it becomes a world of sending links around that is very hard to index and organize. And if you want to keep an eye to what is going on, you have to be online all the time and reading a lot of things (that are now linked around and not there for you to filter based on the text).

Then what happens when you have a tool that people can’t really find a perfect use for but lots of people are using it? Well, you start experimenting! People start using it to try to promote themselves by starting to follow somebody, which will make this person look at what you have and decide if they are going to follow you or not. That’s what happened today when I was followed by masstransitnow, a political temporary twitter account that is trying to pass some proposition to increase the amount of money sent to mass transit in the greater Seattle area.

There are others, like comcastcares that tries to use twitter to solve customer problems with Comcast.

Does this type of thing work? Well, it’s not a great way of sending good content to people, but it’s a cheap way of getting your name out there and getting a couple of hundred people to know that you exist. The numbers are completely meaningless for most of those applications (what would 200 extra votes do to a proposition being selected in a place like the whole state of Washington?), but it’s easy and free. You only need 140 characters a day and people will keep you in mind.

So back to my personal experience: do I use twitter for anything useful? Actually no. I end up writing less because things that I want to write are too long to twitter about, but because I first try using twitter, I feel like in order for me to post it on this blog it needs to be more in-depth, which usually means that it just never gets written.

I’m actually amazed that I was able to finish this post… Before 2 AM!

Laughable

Sorry, I was going to write something about my impressions of Brazil so far, but I read this and I can’t help but laugh at it and pass it on:

Microsoft execs struggled with Vista too, say internal e-mails

It discusses that even Microsoft understood the mess that they were creating releasing Vista “this early” (although it was very late according to their initial plan). Very tragic, but funny at the same time.

Microsoft is a great company that needs a paradigm shift. It’s stuck to this self-centered world of major releases that aim on putting out a piece of software that is easy to obtain (it comes inside your operating system when you buy a new computer) that just has parity to the basic of what is out there. Their hope is that people will be lazy to go and get the better things, just because they aren’t that behind anymore.

I’ve felt this when I got home and realized that all my parents’ computers had only IE7. I just couldn’t deal with it, so one of the first things is that I’ve installed Firefox, mouse gestures and ad block and now life is so much better and faster. Yes, you can claim you can do it all with IE7 and I did try some of it. I just thought that, from my limited experience, the large amount of very mature solutions that exist for Firefox are just easier to use. IE7 has things like IE7Pro that does a lot of it for you, but it is a huge bundle of different things and not only what I want.

Finally, I was discussing this today: the future lies on integration. Building solutions and hoping everybody in the world with integrate with these solutions is not the direction to go. Even if you open your formats (like Microsoft did with a lot of its Office products). The winner of this fight will be the one that is the most proactive about it, hunting to understand the other and be understood by others. This is an aspect that I actually admire Google for. Look at their Google Docs and Spreadsheets… You can import and export to many formats including MS Office formats and OpenOffice and StarOffice. Do they have a format of their own? No!

My dream is still on a paperless world. But I feel like there are still way too many integration obstacles to get to it. I can share files and sometimes printers between two computers. But any other type of sharing that I want to do (event based things like “open this document, generate a PDF and let me see it on this other computer”) takes a good amount of work. Without those seamless integrations we can never achieve the basic infrastructure that I consider needed for getting rid of this isolated interface that is the paper.

Ok, wrote too much already. Time to go to sleep and hope that I’ll have time before my trip to Salvador to finish my post about my impressions of Brazil/São Paulo.

How a service can be amazing, but quite useless

So I received the following email from a friend today (I’m changing some things just to keep things anonymous):

Dear past Dinner Out Participants,

We will be going to Great Princess Ethiopian Restaurant tomorrow night at 8pm.
Go here to read a description, RSVP, or read a review of the Great Princess Ethiopian
Restaurant. Hope you can make it tomorrow night!

This was through gmail… So on the right side I got the following suggested thing to do:


Would you like to...

Add to calendar
Dinner out at Great Pr...
Sat Jan 6, 2007 8pm

Note:
– At no place there was the explicit date there (you had the email date, plus “tomorrow”)
– At no place it was written “Dinner” (or “out”, for that matter).

Simple things, but made me smile. It’s not that I would use it for anything, as I don’t like online calendar for scheduling, but it’s just good to see technology doing the right thing.

And I thought it was dead

The other day I was observing that I haven’t heard anything from Ruby on Rails for some time and was wondering if all its momentum was gone. But today, when I received the list of developer things coming for the Mac OSX Leopard I saw that the server version will come with Ruby on Rails pre-installed. Interesting move… Maybe I really wasn’t paying enough attention to what is going on out there.

This weekend one of my plans is to dig again things about scientific programming in Python and see if I can find tools to quickly and easily analyze data and present results in a graphical manner. There are two projects that I’m working right now that would benefit immensely from that. I remember in the past that it was very complicated to install and run, but I’ve learned a lot about manually making things work in the last couple of years.

Finally, I’m tired. Today has been an extra-tiring day for some reason I just can’t completely explain. So I got home earlier than usual (it was about 8:30pm) and now I’m trying to relax a little. Listen to some music, maybe watch a movie…